The Continuing Unpopularity of Labor Unions

In honor of the Labor Day holiday, Gallup is out with its regular survey assessing the public’s attitude about labor unions. Gallup’s headline is that approval of labor unions is steady at 52%. This is true, if by steady you mean that unions continue to have the lowest approval rating since the question was first asked in the 1930s.

Just four years ago, 60% of the public approved of labor unions, while 31% disapproved. Today, 42% disapprove of unions, a move of 11 points in a very short period of time. In the 70+ years Gallup has been asking the question, approval has generally been in the 60s and disapproval in the 20s. Support for unions peaked in the 1950s, when 75% of the public approved of unions.

And, this isn’t some kind of skew from question wording. Here’s the question Gallup asks:

Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?

Now, I do have certain existential problems with unions, but I’m not certain I would disapprove of them 100% of the time in all situations. I mean, that question is a pretty clear up-or-down choice. That only around half of adults approve of unions today is a stark reminder of how far labor unions have fallen.

Worse for unions, however, is that a plurality of Americans, 41%, think unions should have less influence. 25% think they should have about the same amount of influence and 29% think unions should have more influence. Four years ago, these numbers were basically reversed, with 35% wanting unions to have more influence and 32% less influence. unions.


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